ECSAS 2023 – Turin 26-29 July

Choice and need: Women’s experiences of birthing in hospitals in India


Majumdar Sreya - Indian Institute of Technology Hyderabad, Department of Liberal Arts, Hyderabad, India


37 – Violent births and deaths: coping with challenging life experiences in South Asia


 Birthing women who participated in this ethnographic study, that focused on understanding the emergence of birth professionals, i.e., professional midwives, doulas, childbirth educators, and lactation consultants have experienced violence during childbirth. The birthing women identified the procedures like episiotomies, inappropriate pelvic examination, and physical and verbal abuse as violent, invasive and unnecessary.

The narratives of the birthing women demonstrate how all birthing women have a different idea of what constitutes a good birthing experience. Some women want elective C-section deliveries; others want to avoid surgeries; some want to use advanced technology controlled by obstetricians; and still others want to give birth naturally without any assistance. According to birth professionals, knowledge of childbirth would give women control over their decisions and choices.

This paper will discuss the experiences of birthing women who chose out-of-hospital births in India, where maternal health policies and programs are intended to favor an increase in the number of hospital-based births. Through ethnographic narratives and accounts, the paper will unfold by bringing out the challenges faced by the birthing women and how they tried to appropriate their birth, including choosing the non-conventional practice of birthing in India, i.e., the out-of-hospital births with the assistance of professional midwives, doulas and other birth professionals.